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or contracts, are irrepealable ever afterwards. The message, in a strain of argument which it is difficult to treat with ordinary respect, declares that this restriction on the power of Congress, as to the establishment of other banks, is a palpable attempt to amend the Constitution by an Act of legislation. The reason on which this observation purports to be founded is, that Congress, by the Constitution, is to have exclusive legislation over the District of Columbia; and when the bank charter declares that Congress will create no new bank within the District, it annuls this power of exclusive legislation I I must say that this reasoning hardly rises high enough to entitle it to a passing notice. It would be doing it too much credit to call it plausible. No one needs to be informed that exclusive power of legislation is not unlimited power of legislation; and if it were, how can that legislative power be unlimited that cannot restrain itself, that cannot bind itself by contract? Whether as a government or as an individual, that being is fettered and restrained which is not capable of binding itself by ordinary obligation. Every legislature binds itself, whenever it makes a grant, enters into a contract, bestows an office, or does any other act or thing which is in its nature irrepealable. And this, instead of detracting from its legislative power, is one of the modes of exercising that power. And the legislative power of Congress over the District of Columbia would not be full and complete, if it might not make just such a stipulation as the bank charter contains. What I have now been considering are the President’s objections, not to the policy or expediency, but to the constitutionality of the bank; and not to the constitutionality of any new or proposed bank, but of the bank as it now is, and as it has long existed. If the President had declined to approve this bill because he thought the original charter unwisely granted, and the bank, in point of policy and expediency, objectionable or mischievous, and in that wiew only had suggested the reasons now urged by him, his argument, however inconclusive, would have been intelligible, and not, in its whole frame and scope, inconsistent with all well-established first principles. His rejection of the bill, in that case, would have been, no doubt, an extraordinary exercise of power; but it would have been, nevertheless, the exercise of a power belonging to his office, and trusted by the Constitution to his discretion. But when he puts forth an array of arguments, such as the message employs, not against the expediency of the bank, but against its constitutional existence, he confounds all distinctions, mixes questions of policy and questions of right together, and turns all constitutional restraints into mere matters of opinion, As far as its power extends either in its direct effects, or as a precedent, the message not only unsettles every thing which has been settled under the Constitution, but would show, also, that the Constitution itself is utterly incapable of any fixed construction or definite interpretation, and that there is no possibility of establishing, by its authority, any practical limitations on the powers of the respective branches of the government. When the message denies, as it does, the authority of the Supreme Court to decide on constitutional questions, it effects, so far as the opinion of the President and his authority can effect, a completo change in our government. It does two things: first, it converts constitutional limitations of power into mere matters of opinion, and then it strikes the judicial department, as an efficient department, out of our system. But the message by no means stops even at this point. IIaving denied to Congress the authority of judging what powers may be constitutionally conferred on a bank, and having erected the judgment of the President himself into a standard by which to try the constitutional character of such powers, and having denounced the authority of the Supreme Court to decide finally on constitutional questions, the message proceeds to claim for the President, not the power of approval, but the primary power, the power of originating laws. The President informs Congress, that he would have sent them such a charter, if it had been properly asked for, as they ought to confer. He very plainly intimates that, in his opinion, the establishment of all laws, of this nature at least, belongs to the functions of the executive government; and that Congress ought to have waited for the manifestation of the executive will, before it presumed to touch the subject. Such, Mr. President, stripped of their disguises, are the real pretences set up in behalf of the executive power in this most extraordinary paper. Mr. President, we have arrived at a new epoch. We are entering on experiments, with the government and the Constitution of the country, hitherto untried, and of fearful and appalling aspect. This message calls us to the contemplation of a future which little resembles the past. Its principles are at war with all that public opinion has sustained, and all which the experience of the government has sanctioned. It denies first principles; it contradicts truths heretofore received as indisputable. It denies to the judiciary the interpretation of law, and claims to divide with Congress the power of originating statutes. It extends the grasp of executive pretension over every power of the government. But this is not all. It presents the chief magistrate of the Union in the attitude of arguing away the powers of that government over which he has been chosen to preside ; and adopting for this purpose modes of reasoning which, even under the influence of all proper feeling towards high official station, it is difficult to regard as respectable. It appeals to every prejudice which may betray men into a mistaken view of their own interests, and to every passion which may lead them to disobey the impulses of their understanding. It urges all the specious topics of State rights and national encroachment against that which a great majority of the States have affirmed to be rightful, and in which all of them have acquiesced. It sows, in an unsparing manner, the seeds of jealousy and ill-will against that government of which its author is the official head. It raises a cry, that liberty is in danger, at the very moment when it puts forth claims to powers heretofore unknown and unheard of. It affects alarm for the public freedom, when nothing endangers that freedom so much as its own unparalleled pretences. This, even, is not all. It manifestly seeks to inflame the poor against the rich ; it wantonly attacks whole classes of the people, for the purpose of turning against them the prejudices and the resentments of other classes. It is a State paper which finds no topic too exciting for its use, no passion too inflammable for its address and its solicitation. Such is this message. It remains now for the people of the United States to choose between the principles here avowed and their government. These cannot subsist together. The one or the other must be rejected. If the sentiments of the message shall receive general approbation, the Constitution will have perished even earlier than the moment which its enemies originally allowed for the termination of its existence. It will not have survived to its fiftieth year.
THE SPOILS TO THE VICTORS.10
I BEGIN with the subject of removals from office for opinion's sake, -one of the most signal instances of the attempt to extend executive power. This has been a leading measure, a cardinal point, in the course of the administration. It has proceeded, from the first, on a settled system of proscription
10 In the Fall of 1832, a National Republican Convention being held at Wor. cester, Massachusetts, Webster addressed the body in a speech of considerable length, reviewing the course of the administration. Among the various topics urged by him, the Presidential abuse of the power of removal from office was justly made prominent. “To the victors belong the spoils” had then grown into
for political opinions; and this system it has carried into operation to the full extent of its ability. The President has not only filled all vacancies with his own friends, generally those most distinguished as personal partisans, but he has turned out political opponents, and thus created vacancies, in order that he might fill them with his own friends. I think the number of removals and appointments is said to be two thousand. While the administration and its friends have been attempting to circumscribe and to decry the powers belonging to other branches, it has thus seized into its own hands a patronage most pernicious and corrupting, an authority over men's means of living most tyrannical and odious, and a power to punish free men for political opinions altogether intolerable. You will remember, Sir, that the Constitution says not one word about the President's power of removal from office. It is a power raised entirely by construction. It is a constructive power, introduced, at first, to meet cases of extreme public necessity. It has now become coextensive with the executive will, calling for no necessity, requiring no exigency, for its exercise; to be employed at all times, without control, without question, without responsibility. When the question of the President's power of removal was debated in the first Congress, those who argued for it limited it to eatreme cases. Cases, they said, might arise in which it would be absolutely necessary to remove an officer before the Senate could be assembled. An officer might become insane; he might abscond : and from these and other supposable cases, it was said, the public service might materially suffer, if the President could not remove the incumbent. And it was further said, that there was little or no danger of the abuse of the power for party or personal objects. No President, it was thought, would ever commit such an outrage on public opinion. Mr. Madison, who thought the power ought to exist, and to be exercised in cases of high necessity, declared, nevertheless, that if a President should resort to the power when not required by any public exigency, and merely for personal objects, he would deserve to be impeached. By a very small majority,-I think, in the Senate, by the casting vote of the Vice-President,-Congress decided in favour of the existence of the power of removal, upon the grounds which I have mentioned ; granting the power in a case of clear and absolute necessity, and denying its existence everywhere else. Mr. President, we should recollect that this question was discussed, and thus decided, when Washington was in the executive chair. Men knew that in his hands the power would not be abused; nor did they conceive it possible that any of his successors could so far depart from his great and bright example, as, by the abuse of the power, and by carrying that abuse to its utmost extent, to change the essential character of the executive from that of an impartial guardian and executor of the laws into that of the chief dispenser of party rewards. Three or four instances of removal occurred in the first twelve years of the government. At the commencement of Mr. Jefferson's administration, he made several others, not without producing much dissatisfaction; so much so, that he thought it expedient to give reasons to the people, in a public paper, for even the limited extent to which he had exercised the power. He rested his justification on particular circumstances and peculiar grounds; which, whether substantial or not, showed at least that he did not regard the power of removal as an ordinary power, still less as a mere arbitrary one, to be used as he pleased, for whatever ends he pleased, and without responsibility. As far as I remember, Sir, after the early part of Mr. Jefferson’s administration, hardly an instance occurred for near thirty years. If there were any instances, they were few. But at the commencement of the present administration, the precedent of these previous cases was seized on, and a system, a regular plan of government, a well-considered scheme for the maintenance of party power by the patronage of office, and this patronage to be created by general removal, was adopted, and has been carried into full operation. Indeed, before General Jackson's inauguration, the party put the system into practice. In the last session of Mr. Adams's administration, the friends of General Jackson constituted a majority in the Senate ; and nominations, made by Mr. Adams to fill vaCancies which had occurred in the ordinary way, were postponed, by this majority, beyond the third of March, for the purpose, openly avowed, of giving the nominations to General Jackson. A nomination for a Judge of the Supreme Court, and many others of less magnitude, were thus disposed of. And what did we witness, Sir, when the administration actually commenced, in the full exercise of its authority ? One universal sweep, one undistinguishing blow, levelled against all who were not of the successful party. No worth, public or
common use as a sort of maxim or proverb suited to the case: I well remember having often heard it quoted by the partisans of the President as a just and safe rule of action in regard to the official patronage of the government. Probably a more immoral and debasing principle was never invoked, to help on the work of political corruption; and Webster had good reason to be alarmed at the extraordinary change of habit thus inaugurated in our National State. The whole speech is exceedingly able, of course; but there is, I think, something of special cause why the part here given should be kept in mind.